L. is a sucker for calzones. However, sometimes calzones from the local House of Pizza aren’t in the budget. I made this stromboli from The Best Make-Ahead Recipe this week for dinner for “Guys’ Night.” Guys’ Night is what the guys have when I have book club. Usually the offerings are take-out or something somewhat decadent at least, but neither were in the cards this week so I thought I’d try to come up with something worthy instead. I was able to make the stromboli earlier in the day and refrigerate it so they could just pop it in the oven in the evening.

I prepared my stromboli with browned ground beef, turkey pepperoni and bacon bits. An odd combo, I know, but it’s what I had kicking around in the fridge! L. and P. had it with a little (jarred) marinara on the side. It was very well-received!

my new toy

OK, remember back last June when I posted about my (then) new toy — the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker? Remember how I said it was a birthday gift from P.? Well, it really wasn’t what P. had intended to give me for my birthday. What he actually gave me was a stand mixer. I was to go select it myself because (he knows me well) I probably had a specific mixer already in mind. Which I did. However, I then chickened out (not cheap, these mixers) and bought myself the ice cream maker as my substitute (and much more reasonable) birthday gift. Because pastry chefs need to know how to make all sorts of desserts, yes?

Since then I’ve been investigating and pricing out stand mixers, particularly the Cuisinart. I was attracted to the 800 watt motor in particular and was impressed that Cook’s Illustrated thought highly of it as well. So I bought myself one (I still consider it a birthday gift from P.). And I love it! I just love the hum of it, I love how it makes quick work of what was almost literally back-breaking labor for me, I love how it looks on my kitchen counter. I get all warm inside thinking about it.

the best apple pie

I’m not what I would call a pie person. I will gladly eat pie, but I don’t crave it the way some people do. There is only one apple pie I love though, and that’s the one they bake at the Big Apple Farm in Wrentham, Massachusetts. Somehow it always seems to stay warm long after we bring it home, which I’m sure adds to my fondness for it.

We haven’t visited the Big Apple this fall though, so I thought I would try to make my own. I used King Arthur Flour’s The Best Apple Pie recipe (slightly different on the website from my version, which is from the cookbook). In my version, I used King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour (my regular go-to flour; my grocery store didn’t have pastry flour anyway), and substituted vegetable shortening for half the butter called for in the crust. Also, my recipe made a bit more crust than the recipe on the website. In the filling, I used a combination of McIntosh and Gala apples. They weren’t my first choice, but were the only apples my grocery had that day that were grown in the U.S. (i.e. “local”). I omitted the rum, and used apple cider instead of boiled cider. I also used cornstarch instead of the King Arthur Pie Filling Enhancer listed on the website, as that was how the recipe was written in the book.

The pie turned out very rustic looking (due to my lack of finesse with the crust). The apples were heaped to overflowing before the pie went in the oven but cooked down appropriately. Note to self: next time put a cookie sheet on the bottom oven rack to catch the drips. The oven was smoking for the last 30 minutes and I ended having to run the self-cleaning cycle right away so I’d be able to use the oven the next day without succumbing to the fumes.

So the result of all this drama is that the pie was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S, worthy (or perhaps superior to?) of being a Big Apple pie substitute. L. and I had it for breakfast (and dessert) for the next several days (it was an enormous pie, even for 2 adults and a teenager to consume).

chocolate chip muffins

C. loves (plain) chocolate chip muffins. In fact, for a long time it was the only muffin variety he would eat. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure serving chocolate at breakfast would put me in the running for Mom Of The Year, so I had long been trying to find a recipe that would please him and make me feel good about serving it. So I found this recipe on Nestle’s Very Best Baking website and modified it slightly. I omitted the streusel (not his thing anyway), and substituted whole-wheat flour for a 1/4 of the all-purpose flour. The results are smallish (no streusel to add to the height) and not very brown on top (maybe downright pale), although the sides and bottom are golden brown when done. But they are very tasty. The next step will be to replace some of that stick of butter the recipe calls for!

banana chocolate chip muffins

From the same issue of fresh magazine — banana chocolate chip muffins. I loved that these contained mini chocolate chips. It made the chocolate more evenly distributed plus you weren’t overwhelmed by a mega mouthful of oozy chocolate (I know this is desirable to some, but a bit much for me, at least at breakfast). They freeze nicely too. Also, I made 12 rather than 16 since I didn’t have a second muffin tin. These bigger muffins took 25 minutes to bake.

milk chocolate snack cake

It’s a tradition in our house that I bake a cake to celebrate the boys’ return to school each fall. Usually it’s a store-bought mix, but this year I decided to make a cake from scratch. I chose to bake a smaller cake than I typically do, just because we’ve been overindulging this summer — 4 birthdays in our house, plus I baked a gateau for my mother-in-law as well. That’s a lot of cake!

The boys both had 2 servings (although given the size of the cake, the two servings probably added up to one average-sized slice of layer cake). The cake was moist and buttery, and the lack of relative sweetness in the “frosting” provided a nice contrast. The only downside was that the cake was so small!